Special Report: Who's playing with your kids online? - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Special Report: Who's playing with your kids online?

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Pedophiles and terrorists found together in an online community with young, innocent children. The FBI confirms it is happening in Kentuckiana right under parents' noses.

The video game world is exploding and it's not Mario and Luigi's heyday anymore. It's all about multiplayer, online, fast-paced, interactive video gaming. Systems like Playstation network and X-BOX Live are cashing in big with video games franchises like Madden, Halo and Call of Duty.

Hooked to the internet, you can play with the world from the comfort of your home, but the days of kids simply playing to beat the bad guys are gone. Now the bad guys may be playing with your kids.

Principal Dan Lockwood said, "People can find out much more about your child than you would ever want them to know."

Lockwood runs East Hardin Middle School. An avid gamer himself, he found the coarse language in the multi-player game rooms being shouted down from adults to children.

WDRB played with him to see firsthand and heard racist, homophobic and vulgar language, along with more curse words than we could count. Lockwood said he was even more surprised by what he heard kids say in return.

"Statements like oh I'm going to rape you, and you sit back and go, 'do you understand what your saying when you say that?' and they don't," said Lockwood.

Child Psychologist Bryan Carter said over-exposure to violent video games can alter a child's brain and make some think that kind of violence and obscene language is normal.

Dr. Carter said, "The blood flow to the frontal cortex, the area where we reason or use judgment or where we make decisions, is kind of shut down in kids with a violent history." He said, "It's gotten so intense and so realistic in some respects that it's like having an intruder come into your house."

Lockwood believes most parents don't know about the dangers. "If their parents could see or hear what was being said they probably wouldn't let them play. But parents hear and see game and think game."

WDRB put the principal's theory to the test by comprising a parent panel of adults with varying degrees of knowledge about what games their kids play. Some of the parents were shocked to see our findings.

Melissa Tabor said, "That violence is really upsetting to me, in addition to the language."

Only one parent knew the full extent of the games. Travis Smith said, " I'm an avid Call of Duty player. I play more than my kids play and I think the N word is the second most used word."

"I'm totally against my son playing that, " said Trey Runyon. But Runyon has similar games in his home and so does Charlie Thomas. Thomas said he knew his 10-year-old son loved to play Call of Duty and he could hear him online chatting with a friend from school in the basement. When WDRB's Gilbert Corsey showed him the clip of the language in the games he said he was "surprised and concerned."

What's happenings in these online networks is also concerning the federal government. FBI Cyber Agent Adam Keown explained a current case in Kentucky where a 21-year-old man fostered a relationship with a 14-year-old girl through "World of Warcraft", an online P-C game.

Keown said, "They've played the game a lot together, now they want to get married. He actually sent her a new computer in the mail."

In some cases Keown said pedophiles prey on kids, offering them help in the online games in exchange for favors, which leads to child exploitation.

Keown said, "Children are giving out their numbers to complete strangers. There have been reports of even possible terrorist activity happening inside these video games because in order to avoid law enforcement they'll go communicate in these other areas."

To meet the need Keown said the FBI added cyber units to every one of its field offices throughout the country in the last 12 months.

Keown said, "The agency believes that moving forward, cyber matters will become our number one priority, even above terrorism."

Video game retailers expect a huge holiday buying season. The top multi-player franchises all release new games this month. The most popular one of them all is Call of Duty: Black Ops II. It comes out this week. The last edition of the game raked in 400 million dollars in the first day making it the biggest entertainment opening of all time.

This game, like many other multi-player titles, is rated Mature. But it seems many parents aren't paying attention to the ratings. Parents are purchasing the most violent games for their children.

"In those situations our associate will advise the parents as to what the content of the game is," said Gamestop District Manager Aaron Locke. The company takes ESRB content ratings seriously. Locke said the company will not sell to anyone under the appropriate age for the game.

Parents can filter out the language and even and some of the violence and content on the most violent and vulgar games. Lockwood said ultimately it's up to parents to become familiar, monitor and regulate, as the only thing that's the same from old school games to today is the start button on the first page.

Copyright 2012 WDRB News.  All Rights Reserved.

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